What happened to D.B. Cooper, the thief who jumped out of an airplane with $200,000 over the Pacific Northwest in 1971? Go inside the mystery with History Uncovered.
On November 24, 1971, a man who identified himself as Dan Cooper bought a one-way ticket from Portland to Seattle on Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305. He paid for his ticket in cash and made his way to seat 18C.
Shortly after take-off, he called over one of the flight attendants, Florence Schaffner, and handed her a piece of paper. Schaffner, believing it to be a phone number or a pick-up line, slid the note into her pocket. But the man leaned forward. “Miss,” he said. “You’d better look at that note. I have a bomb.”
The mysterious man calmly opened his briefcase to display a tangle of wires and several red cylinders that looked like dynamite. Schaffner later recalled that what she saw in his briefcase looked “lethal.”
After reading Cooper’s note and seeing the wires in the briefcase, Schaffner went to the front of the plane to inform the pilot. Suddenly, a routine flight from Portland to Seattle had become a matter of life and death.
For two hours, the plane flew in circles. On the ground, Northwest Orient Airlines scrambled to satisfy Cooper’s demands: four parachutes and $200,000. Cooper waited patiently, now wearing dark sunglasses.
The plane finally landed in Seattle at 5:39 p.m., where Cooper received the money and the parachutes. He let most of the crew go but told the pilot that he wanted to fly to Mexico. However, the plane wouldn’t be able to make it to Mexico without stopping in Reno, Nevada to refuel.
Cooper agreed to the stop, but he had several more demands: The plane must fly as slowly as possible at a low altitude with the rear door open. The pilot agreed, and the plane took to the skies again around 7:40 p.m. This time, it was followed by several Air Force jets from McChord Air Force base.
At 8:00 p.m., a light flashed in the cockpit. The rear stairs of the aircraft had been lowered. About 15 minutes later, the crew felt an upward jerking motion, but they didn’t dare to leave the cockpit. At 10:15 p.m., the plane landed in Reno — on a tarmac surrounded by police ready to search the plane and arrest the hijacker.
But D.B. Cooper was not there.
The hijacker had vanished — and so had the ransom money. Neither he nor the cash — aside from a few scraps littering the wilds of the Pacific Northwest — were ever found, and speculation about who D.B. Cooper was and what happened to him continues to pique the interest of true crime enthusiasts to this day.
Learn more about the mystery of D.B. Cooper and the theories surrounding his fate.